A Few Words on Easily Confused Words

The summer has been good to me so far! It’s actually been a little too good. My cup runneth over with work and activity, and I’ve got to get it all before autumn sets in. So today’s post is just a quick look at three sets of easily confused words. If you can keep these straight, you’ll make some editor very, very happy.

The word ‘pique’ means ‘to stimulate.’ It’s derived from a French word describing a pinprick. One uses the word ‘pique’ to describe what happens when a person’s curiosity has been aroused. Curiosity is not peeked or peaked. Curiosity is piqued.

‘Discreet’ is one of my favorite words. When you’re asked to be discreet about something, you’re being asked to keep it to yourself. On the other hand, the word ‘discrete’ describes things that are entirely separate from each other. There’s an easy trick for keeping them straight! The word ‘discreet’ ends with ‘et,’ just like the word ‘secret.’ The word ‘discrete’ ends with ‘te,’ just like the word ‘separate.’

The word ‘aversion’ describes a strong negative response to something. Accordingly, if a person is described as risk averse, that person intensely dislikes and will try to avoid risk. The word ‘adversity’ describes an obstacle, something that is in opposition to you, your progress, or your interests. So something that is ‘adverse’ to you is in your way. It’s possible to be adversity averse. It’s possible for risk to present adversity to you. The phrase ‘risk adverse’ doesn’t really mean anything, though.

I know I’m not the only one seeing easily confused words out there. Leave your faves in the comments!

**Freelance editor Lexi Walker will be posting on issues of grammar, usage, and style every month. She knows that her firm approach to editing stings a little but prefers to think that the momentary discomfort means the process is working.


3 thoughts on “A Few Words on Easily Confused Words

  • Thanks for the tip for discreet and discrete! I hope I can remember it because I know I’m an inadvertent offender (hope I didn’t use one of those wrong LOL). I particularly loved the comment – The phrase ‘risk adverse’ doesn’t really mean anything…” Made me laugh (might just be me). Keep up with the helpful hints. I can use all the little tricks of the trade I can get AND I also believe that a little painful correction is well worth avoiding a world of embarrassing published errors.

  • My favorite is moot/mute. I laugh every time I hear someone say, “Your point is mute.” Thanks for another great discussion, Lexi!

  • “You’ve got another THINK comin.” My husband is still not convinced it’s “thinK”. We have decided to agree to disagree. 🙂

    Great article. (I’m gonna have to re-read the difference between discreet and discrete.)

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